Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.
Next up: No. 10 Ronald Darby
What he's done: It's not that Darby didn't have a healthy dose of hype upon arrival at Florida State, but even his impressive recruiting pedigree couldn't have been enough to assuage concerns in the secondary when senior Greg Reid was dismissed from the program just before fall camp, and Darby was thrust into the mix as a potential replacement. As it turned out though, Florida State didn't miss a beat without Reid, and while it was Nick Waisome who landed the starting job, Darby earned a healthy chunk of playing time from the outset and was impressive enough to earn freshman All-America honors by the time the season was over. He finished the season with 22 tackles, eight pass-breakups and a forced fumble, while Florida State's passing D ranked No. 1 in the nation even without Reid.
Where he's at: When Xavier Rhodes chose to leave a year early for the NFL draft, the immediate assumption was that Darby would step seamlessly into the vacated starting corner spot and FSU's secondary would once again endure the loss of a star player without a hiccup. As it turns out, the plan may still work nicely, but it got a bit more complex when Lamarcus Joyner switched from safety to corner before spring practice. That left three potential starters for two jobs, and a spring injury meant Darby wouldn't get a chance to test his mettle until the fall. Still, even if Darby doesn't land an official starting job, he's likely to see an even bigger share of reps this year than he did a year ago as Joyner moves back and forth from corner to safety and nickel on passing downs.
What's to come: From Jameis Winston to Karlos Williams to Mario Edwards Jr., there are numerous Seminoles stepping into bigger roles in 2013 that are widely expected to blossom into stars, but perhaps none seems as sure a bet for longterm success as Darby. His ability to pick up FSU's defensive scheme so quickly last fall was surprising, but he continued to grow as the year went along, and now he'll get a taste of new DC Jeremy Pruitt's scheme which should free Darby to be even more of a playmaker. How the snaps are shared between a crowded defensive backfield remains to be seen, but if Darby's not at the top of the depth chart now, there's a strong belief he will be by year's end -- and he's got the potential to be an All-American before his time is up at Florida State.